Pew Report: Data Reveal Positive Growth for Philadelphia

2015 ‘State of the City‘ report also details continuing challenges

Navigate to:

Pew Report: Data Reveal Positive Growth for Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA—In its latest look at Philadelphia by the numbers, The Pew Charitable Trusts finds reason for optimism, even as deep-seated challenges persist.

The comprehensive report, Philadelphia 2015: The State of the City, examines key indicators of the city’s condition—including jobs, public safety, education, housing, government, and transportation—and features select results from Pew’s most recent citywide poll. Although many of the statistics show that Philadelphia is moving in a positive direction, the analysis reveals that significant issues remain.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Overall population. According to estimates from the Census Bureau, Philadelphia’s population rose in 2014 for the eighth straight year. Millennials continue to fuel the city’s population growth, and Pew’s latest poll showed that this generation now feels more inclined to stay in the city long term.
  • Jobs. Unemployment fell sharply in 2014, and the number of jobs in Philadelphia grew by 8,800. But the rate of job growth, 1.3 percent, did not keep up with the national rate, which was 1.9 percent.
  • Poverty. The poverty rate fell slightly to 26.3 percent in 2013 from 28.4 percent in 2011 but remained the highest among the nation’s 10 largest cities.
  • Public safety. Major crimes declined in 2014, dropping below 70,000 for the first time in three decades. The number of homicides, which fell to a 45-year low in 2013, rose by one.
  • Education. K-12 standardized test scores declined, and enrollment in district-run schools continued to fall. The four-year high school graduation rate edged higher to 65 percent, and the share of adult residents with bachelor’s degrees rose to 25 percent—both still well below national averages.
  • Housing. Philadelphia’s residential building boom reached new heights in 2014, with permits issued for 3,973 units. That is the most in several decades, with a construction value of $879 million. Meanwhile, the percentage of residents who are homeowners continued to drop and could fall below 50 percent in the next few years.
  • Government. The funding level of the municipal workers’ pension system dropped to 47 percent of the assets needed to pay for their liabilities.

“There’s good reason to be optimistic about Philadelphia in 2015,” said Larry Eichel, director of Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative. “The growing young adult and immigrant populations, residential building boom, and declining unemployment and major crime rates are all positive signs for the city. But our findings indicate that progress on the economy, pensions, schools, and public safety will be essential to keep Philadelphia moving forward.”

For more information and to download the complete report, visit Printed copies will be available in late April. Please email [email protected] to request one. 


The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative provides timely, impartial research and analysis on key issues facing Philadelphia for the benefit of the city’s citizens and leaders. Learn more at

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.